Are Criminologists the New Sherlock Holmes?

Sherlock Holmes has caught our imagination since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created his character in the late nineteenth century based on events of the time.  The fictional work has spawned several movies, cartoons, spoofs, sequels, and contributed greatly to current pop culture of the criminal justice system.  However, while Sherlock Holmes has typically been defined as a detective, the (relatively) new title of criminologist seems to fit in well with his fictional understanding of crime.

Criminologists are defined as those who study the nature, extent, causes, and control of criminal behavior in individuals and society.  This does not seem too different from the tasks that many detectives take on throughout their line of duty, especially Sherlock Holmes.  Understanding the sociological background of crime as well as the causes and consequences of crime help many law enforcement officers (and criminologists) apprehend the criminals through an understanding of their mindset. Criminologists follow many different schools of thought, as they are one branch in the criminal justice system that focuses more on the sociological writings about the subject, rather than on hard facts about the specific cases.

However, criminologists continue to play a widely important role throughout the criminal justice system because they look at any contributing factors to the criminals’ background, as well as the crime itself.  In this sense, Sherlock Holmes predated the notion of a criminologist by only a few years, but his mere fictional character can help people outside the system better understand what goes on with the study of crime.  Criminologists are typically not involved with the “nitty-gritty” work of apprehending dangerous criminals, but are typically called in for a more theoretical outlook on the crime itself, especially when it is out of the ordinary.

The social order of a community can lead greatly to increased amounts of crime, and criminologists are typically called upon to analyze crime-ridden communities.  Some theories suggest that neighborhoods high in poverty with large population turnovers lead to the failure of social structure because it is too difficult for any type of social organization to take place, instead leading to crime.  Other theories focus on social ecology, which is essentially “white flight”, creating neighborhoods of the disadvantaged that spawn criminal behavior as well.  The many different schools of thought that are involved in criminology allow students of criminal justice to take on a more sociological outlook of crime, rather than settle with the “on-the-go” criminal mischief.  If Sherlock Holmes has taught us anything, it’s that an understanding of the criminal brain will truly reveal the purpose behind the completion of the crime.